Colorado Avalanche: Evaluating Minor Roster Changes

DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 06: Sheldon Dries #15 of the Colorado Avalanche skates against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Pepsi Center on October 6, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. The Avalanche defeated the Flyers 5-2. (Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images)"n"n
DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 06: Sheldon Dries #15 of the Colorado Avalanche skates against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Pepsi Center on October 6, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. The Avalanche defeated the Flyers 5-2. (Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images)"n"n /

The Colorado Avalanche made some minor roster changes in preparation for their Thursday night game against the Buffalo Sabres.

The Colorado Avalanche are going to be suiting up a different roster on Thursday night against the Buffalo Sabres. Well, a slightly different roster — the team is tweaking who will play tomorrow night.

Colorado suffered their first loss at the hands of the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday night. They started out sluggish and finished flat. In between the start and finish they had a good second period. However, that obviously wasn’t enough to get the job done against the Jackets.

After practice in Buffalo today, at the KeyBank Arena, coach Jared Bednar spoke with the media. He remarked then that the Avs would make a couple changes for the Sabres game:

"“After a good outing and winning hockey games, you want to try and keep the lineup the same, see if you can continue on. In this case, we weren’t as good as we wanted to be.”"

Now, the players rotating out weren’t necessarily to blame for the loss. However, Bednar clearly still wants to get some fresh blood into the roster, perhaps to try and shake things up.

The substitutions shouldn’t come as any great surprise. However, let’s look at them a little more closely.

Vladislav Kamenev

On  Monday, reports filtered out that the Avalanche had recalled Vladislav Kamenev from the Colorado Eagles. Some were alarmed because it had also been reported that captain Gabriel Landeskog was potentially down with a foot injury.

As we know, Landeskog did not miss the Columbus game. And, though Kamenev traveled with the team, he did not play against the Jackets. However, he will get his first chance of the season against Buffalo.

Kamenev was part of the Matt Duchene trade. He came over from Nashville, started in his first game against the Washington Capitals… and went down with a broken arm thanks to Brooks Orpik. He missed the majority of the season but did return for two more games.

Kamenev is known for his skating and his playmaking skills at lower levels. He’s decent-sized and plays a good two-way game. He hasn’t produced anything at the NHL level yet, but he got eight assists in seven games last year with the San Antonio Rampage and one assist in two games with the Eagles this year.

Sheldon Dries is the player coming out. Dries was a bit of a dark horse coming into the roster out of training camp. He spent last year playing under an AHL contract for the Texas Stars. Colorado signed him to a one-year entry-level contract in free agency. Dries is known for playing hockey “the right way” all the time.

Like I said, it’s not that Dries did anything wrong. He looked pretty good for a rookie who was playing in the AHL last season. However, as Bednar stated, when the team’s not doing well, you look to shake them up a little. Taking Dries out of the lineup is a minor change.

Side note: Dries got engaged to his longtime girlfriend the day before the Avs left on their road trip. How did he announce it to the team? He mentioned it to Tyson Jost as he was boarding the plane. Jost proceeded to yell the announcement from the front of the plane — pretty typical Josty, and I’m pretty sure it’s what Sheldon expected.

Anyway, moving on to the next minor roster move.

Patrik Nemeth

More from Mile High Sticking

Defenseman Patrik Nemeth was an opening-night starter. He suffered a minor upper-body injury during that game (he struggled with some muscle strains last season — I don’t know if that’s related). He missed the last two games, but today he participated in his second full practice.

Mark Barberio played in Nemeth’s stead. Technically, Barberio should be the better of the two defensemen — he’s lighter on his skates and moves the puck better. Realistically… Barberio was not good the last two games.

That said, Bednar hasn’t announced who’s going to sit in place of Nemeth. However, the only other possibility I see is Ian Cole, who also had a dreadful game in Columbus. He was really solid the first two games, though.

I suppose Nikita Zadorov is a possibility, too. He also had a less-than-stellar Columbus game, and he’s ever in the coach’s doghouse.

I’m going to guess that the top-three in defense are set barring injury (I’m looking at you, Erik Johnson) at EJ, Sam Girard and Tyson Barrie. I feel the other three positions may be something of a revolving door, especially between Barberio and Nemeth.

Semyon Varlamov

Goalie Semyon Varlamov will get the start in Buffalo. Varlamov started in the two home games and recorded a very impressive 1.5 goals against average and equally impressive .948 save percentage.

Philipp Grubauer has only one start so far, against the Blue Jackets. He allowed four goals and recorded a save percentage of .882. However, he got hung out to dry by a team that provided almost no defense in front of him. So, I’m not going to say his benching has to do with that performance.

The Avalanche have been clear that they intend to rotate both goalies for starts. The team has “two number-one goalies.” Eventually coach Bednar intends to announce his goalie decisions week-by-week so there will be no questions of why said goalie is starting.

However, there’s probably also a practical side to starting Varlamov. The team knows him, and they trust him. If they’re trying to regain their confidence after the loss, they’ll do so better with their longtime goalie in net.

Next. Avalanche Struggling to Find Road Identity. dark

The Colorado Avalanche conclude their first road trip of the season tomorrow in Buffalo. They’ll head home for one game before embarking on a longer road trip — four games along the east coast.